Bajrang, Ravi Kumar win gold medals in Rome Ranking Series

But it was curtains for Jitender in the 74kg category and World Championships silver medallist Deepak Punia in the 86kg category.

Bajrang Punia staged a remarkable comeback to secure a 4-3 win against USA’s Jordan Michael Oliver in the final of the 65kg freestyle category.

India’s star wrestlers Bajrang Punia and Ravi Kumar Dahiya kicked off the Olympic year in style, winning a gold medal each in their respective weight categories at the Rome Ranking Series.

The 25-year-old Punia staged a remarkable comeback to secure a 4-3 win against USA’s Jordan Michael Oliver in the final of the 65kg freestyle category.

Dahiya, who competed in the 61kg category instead of his regular 57kg, also won gold after getting the better of Kazakhstan’s Nurbolat Abdualiyev 12-2 in his final bout late on Saturday night.

The 23-year-old from Sonepat had made the final round after securing impressive wins over Moldova’s Alexaandru Chirtoaca and Kazakhstan’s Nurislam Sanayev.

India, thus, returned with seven medals from the tournament.

Vinesh Phogat and Anhsu Malik winning a gold and a silver respectively in the women’s competition. In Greco-roman, Gurpreet Singh (82kg) won a gold, Sunil Kumar (97kg) a silver while Sajan Bhanwal (77kg) settled for a bronze.

Bajrang admitted that he was not at his best.

“Yes the bouts were close, it’s just first tournament of the season so I was a bit rusty. I had a feeling going into this tournament that the performance will be a bit up and down,” Bajrang told PTI.

“But having close bouts is not a worry, it’s good. It keeps me alert and gives ne chance to ponder over my shortcomings,” he said.

Up against one of India’s biggest medal prospects in the Tokyo Olympics, Oliver conceded that it was not his night against Punia.

The American lauded Punia’s competitive spirit.

“Wasnt my night but I got a lot of work to do to be where I want to be! Hats off to @BajrangPunia dude is heck of a competitor! Until next time my friend,” the American tweeted.

Punia had to sweat it out in the first round against Zain Allen Retherford of the USA before prevailing 5-4.

In the quarterfinal, the ace Indian wrestler went past another American Joseph Christopher Mc Kenna 4-2, before getting the better of Vasyl Shuptar of Ukraine 6-4 in the semifinals.

ALSO READ | Vinesh Phogat wins gold at Rome Ranking Series event

However, it was curtains for Jitender in the 74kg and World Championships silver medallist Deepak Punia in the 86kg category.

Jitender won his first bout against Denys Pavlov of Ukraine 10-1 before going down in the quarterfinals to Turkey’s Soner Demirtas 4-0.

Jitender got a change to fight in the repechage after Demirtas entered the final, but the Indian wasted the opportunity, losing 2-9 to Daniyar Kaisanov of Kazakhstan.

In the 86kg category, Deepak Punia crashed out in the opening round, losing 1-11 to Ethan Adrian Ramos of Puerto Rico.

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